DENVER — Semyon Varlamov‘s brief benching was beneficial. So was a quick refresher course on how to stop pucks.
Like that, he’s rediscovered his top form and his confidence.
Varlamov’s resurgence is just in time, too. The Avs are in a heated race with Minnesota for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
“This season has been up and down for me,” said Varlamov, who earned his 20th career shutout. “When you have tough situations you have to never give up and work hard.”
It was Varlamov’s second solid start after a recent rash of subpar performances led to a few starts for backup Calvin Pickard. Coach Patrick Roy said he never lost confidence in Varlamov but needed him to be more consistent.
“Sometimes it’s good to have a step back, and he’s been outstanding since,” Roy said.
No arguments from Anaheim.
“Nine times out of 10 (Varlamov) has a great game,” Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf said. “You have to find a way to get more quality scoring chances.”
The Ducks have now dropped two straight — one in a shootout — for the first time since December and ended a six-game road winning streak. They also dropped out of first place in the Pacific Division when the Kings beat the Capitals 4-3 in overtime later Wednesday.
Anaheim goaltender John Gibson had a rare off night, at least by his standards. He entered tied for the league lead with a 2.04 goals-against average, but stopped just 23 of 26 shots.
“We weren’t prepared to play tonight. Simple as that,” said Getzlaf, whose team has been outscored 6-0 by Colorado in two meetings this season. “They played well and we didn’t show up to play.”
Things got a little chippy in the waning seconds when Colorado defenceman Francois Beauchemin and Anaheim forward Jamie McGinn exchanged shoves. Beauchemin played parts of nine seasons with Anaheim while McGinn used to play for Colorado.
There was also a questionable crosscheck late in the game on Simon Despres.
“Haven’t seen that,” Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. “The league will look at it I’m sure.”
All the physical play is part of the pressure of a tight playoff chase.
“That was not a love affair tonight for sure,” Roy said. “They want to finish first in their division and we want to make the playoffs.”
Matthias nearly had another goal early in the third period when he took a long pass at the blue line on a breakaway and beat Gibson with a shot. The officials ruled Matthias was offside, but replays seemed to indicate his skate might have been on the blue line when he entered the zone.
No matter, the three-goal cushion was more than enough for Varlamov. One of his best of the night was in the second period when he redirected a tip by David Perron just wide of the goal.
Colorado scored midway through the first when Erik Johnson lofted the puck from blue line to blue line, where a speeding MacKinnon quickly settled it onto his stick with defenceman Josh Manson draped on him. MacKinnon was able to lift the puck over Gibson’s glove for his 21st goal of the season.
“We were good all over the ice,” Martinsen said. “Varly obviously shut the door today, our defence was good, our offence was good and we scored some goals.”
NOTES: Anaheim D Sami Vatanen suffered an upper-body injury in the first period. He will be re-evaluated Thursday. … Anaheim wraps up a two-game trip Friday in St. Louis. … Avalanche D Chris Bigras (head) missed a second straight game. … F Jack Skille was a scratch. … Colorado killed off three Anaheim power-play opportunities. The Avalanche have now killed off 22 straight penalties.